United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge.
proceeds through counsel in his appeal of a final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's
applications for Child Disability Benefits (CDB) and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) after a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having considered the
ALJ's decision, the administrative record (AR), and all
memoranda of record, this matter is REVERSED and REMANDED for
further administrative proceedings.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1985. He has a ninth-grade education, and
previously worked in a warehouse for a few days. (AR 661,
applied for CDB and SSI in April 2014 and June 2014,
respectively. (AR 635-41, 644-49.) Those applications were
denied and Plaintiff timely requested a hearing. (AR 469-83,
August 9, 2017, ALJ Paul Gaughen held a hearing, taking
testimony from Plaintiff, Plaintiff's sister, and a
vocational expert (VE). (AR 34-82.) On September 20, 2017,
the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (AR
13-26.) Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on August 1, 2018 (AR
1-6), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the
Commissioner to this Court.
Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process for determining whether a claimant is disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2000).
At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is
gainfully employed. The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since September 30, 2003, the
alleged onset date. (AR 16.) At step two, it must be
determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe
impairment. The ALJ found severe Plaintiff's obesity,
history of alcohol addiction, major depressive disorder,
generalized anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress
disorder. (Id.) Step three asks whether a
claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment.
The ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet
or equal the criteria of a listed impairment. (AR 16-18.)
claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing,
the Commissioner must assess residual functional capacity
(RFC) and determine at step four whether the claimant has
demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The
ALJ found Plaintiff capable of performing medium work, with
additional limitations: he can understand, remember, and
follow new simple instructions/directions, but not those that
are detailed or complex (i.e. with more than five
steps to follow). He can handle routine and perfunctory
work-related social interactions and at a higher level with
persons with whom he is familiar or acquainted. He cannot
meet fast-paced production demands and should not work where
alcoholic beverages are served or stored. He needs a well-set
and -explained work routine. (AR 18.)
has no past relevant work (AR 25), so the ALJ proceeded to
step five, where the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
demonstrate at step five that the claimant retains the
capacity to make an adjustment to work that exists in
significant levels in the national economy. With the
assistance of the VE, the ALJ found Plaintiff capable of
performing representative occupations such as industrial
sweeper, laundry laborer, and dryer attendant. (AR 25-26.)
Court's review of the ALJ's decision is limited to
whether the decision is in accordance with the law and the
findings supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole. See Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th
Cir. 1993). Substantial evidence means more than a scintilla,
but less than a preponderance; it means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d
747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). If there is more than one rational
interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision,
the Court must uphold that decision. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002).
argues the ALJ erred in entering step-three findings and in
weighing medical opinion evidence, which led to errors in the
step-two findings, the assessment of Plaintiff's
testimony, the RFC assessment, and the step-five findings.
Dkt. 10 at 1-2. Plaintiff also argues that evidence submitted
for the first time to the Appeals Council undermines the
ALJ's decision. Dkt. 10 at 2. The Commissioner argues
that the ALJ's ...